Rod Fleming's hilarious firs novel, describing the loves and lives of a pair of salmon-poachers in a village on the northeast coast of Scotland.
Acclaimed as a ‘true classic’ of humorous fiction, Poaching the River opens, after introducing the heroes, Big Sye and his pal Peem, with the return of the beautiful Rae Swankie to the village of Auchpinkie in Scotland.
Later, after a confrontation with his cousin, Geordie Baird, a bailiff, Big Sye decides to poach the River Pinkie of all the salmon during the Spring Run, to teach Geordie a lesson.
Rae's son Willie and Peem's son Ian strike up a friendship. The boys plan a revenge attack on Lanky Boab Smith, a nonagenarian who recently chastised Ian—firmly—for walking across his potato patch.
Boab's house has no indoor toilet, and he uses the village Public Convenience instead. However, on account of his size, Boab can't use the Convenience with the door shut, so he leaves it open, to the outrage of Morag Paterson, who has a good view of the procedure from her kitchen window. The boys plan to let off a home-made firework outside the Convenience when the old man is inside.
Unknown to the lads, Boab dies of a brain haemorrhage before their squib goes off, and the cigarette he was smoking falls into a crack in the floor, where it causes an explosion on contact with a large quantity of methane gas which has built up there. The convenience is destroyed and Boab's body is blasted up in to the air.
Meanwhile, Sye and Peem have been out all night successfully poaching the River Pinkie, and narrowly escaping the authorities.
Shocked by the blast that destroyed the Convenience, Willie and Ian decide that the explosion must have really been caused by God in order to teach them both a lesson. As a result of this, they both decide to seek help from the minister, the Reverend James Jameson.
That night, Sye, who has been down at the little harbour to check his boat, is jumped on his way back up to the village by Geordie Baird and Gilchrist, his deputy, and a fight ensues, which goes badly for Sye until his dog, Pluto, joins the fray.
Sye, making his way back to his cottage, meets Rae, who insists that he comes in to her house so that she can dress his wounds. While they are in Rae's cottage together the police arrive to investigate the commotion.
It turns out that the market for salmon is not very good, and Sye and Peem have a problem on their hands. Peem comes up with a brilliant idea: why not have a wake for Lanky Boab, invite all the village, and serve up the salmon?
While the two friends are thus preoccupied, a rumour spreads in the village that there is a romance between Rae and Sye. That night Peem’s wife Iz and Rae go out to Arbeg for a Hen Night. Rae reveals to Iz that Sye is the father of her son Willie, and that this is the reason she left the village in a hurry twelve years before..
The day of the funeral arrives and Lanky Boab is nowhere to be seen; when the hearse does arrive, the grave is found to be too short; then Agnes Paterson, who has been up half the night preparing the salmon, steps in and insists that there will be no further delays to the meal, and the burial will have to take place later. Reluctantly, but faced with the prospect of mutiny, the Reverend Jameson has to acquiesce. Lunch rapidly turns into an alcohol-enhanced party.
Sye is engineered into being alone with Rae, and they talk. Before too long they are catching up on twelve years of separation with some passion.
Please note that the dialogue in this edition is in authentic Doric Scots.